It’s 2018 and nothing fits.
Buttons strain. Waistbands pinch. Seams leave indented broken lines, like little pricks of body art, pushed into my skin.
There are whole sections of my wardrobe that now dwell in ‘nah, don’t bother’ territory.
There’s never been more of me. I’m bulging, overspilling, gathering in groups.
This is not the result of a little too much Christmas ham. Of saying “yes” to too many refills of bubbles over the last week, of sneaking the kids’ stocking-filler chocolates.
No, this is the result of 2017 – a year when I put pretty much everything ahead of my weight. I put writing ahead of it, work ahead of it, hanging out with my family in rare moments of peace ahead of it. I put wine on TFI Friday nights ahead of it.
LISTEN: Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright, and Jessie Stephens check in on how they did during 2017, and come up with a word to guide their every move in 2018. Post continues after audio…
I stopped weighing myself. I stopped going to the gym. I stopped getting up at 5am to run.
I stopped resisting the kids’ leftovers, other people’s hot chips (oh no, I never ordered them for ME) and giant scoops of dip at barbecues.
I stopped fighting against the fact that here, in my mid-40s, dropping bread for a week or two is not going to shift anything. Everything is slower to change.
I’m not going to pretend those were good decisions. They weren’t even decisions, really. But life is busy, things fall off your plate (or, you know, on to it) and it is what it is.
So, here I am in Summer. And let’s be real. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been.
You might look at me, in the pictures that accompany this story, and swear under your breath. ‘Call that fat? F*ck off.’
I’m not claiming that the shape of my body or the number on my (non-existent) scale is causing me to face any discrimination or significant discomfort. This is only a story about a pudgy middle-age woman in a swimsuit, not an attempt to co-opt or belittle the experience of anyone whose size means they face prejudice, judgement or even abuse, every day.
But, whatever our size, we have now entered the season of self-flagellation. And at my age, weight and shape, the script I should be following right now is this:
'I'm going to lose 10 kilos. By Easter. I’m cutting out all of the things. Grains are going. Dairy’s out. No more booze, no more coffee, dip is dead to me.
I’m going to whip and rip this body into shape. I’m going to squat and lift and stretch it back into a place where I don’t insist that every photo taken of me is from a great height.
And until I have achieved that holy grail of a body I don’t feel the need to apologise for, I am going to hide away all Summer long. Hand me that towel to wrap around my waist. Pass me a mu-mu. Maybe I’ll just stay home."
One thing cheering me up as I peer through a broken eye these holidays is the kick-arse body positivity of #mamamiasummer - and here’s ours. Cousin Jess is staying and she can back-squat her own body-weight because she’s a strength-training goddess. I am not. It has never occurred to M that her body is anything other than a tool for swimming, dancing and running, and I hope it stays that way for as long as possible. All of us have ‘beach bodies’, even little B. ???????? ???? @mamamiaaus
But you know what? No. Just no.
Because along with the kilos I collected in 2017, I also gained some wisdom. (Which is just as well, because there have to be a few perks to being middle-aged).
And the wisdom is this: Our bodies go through seasons. They change. They grow and shrink, they lengthen out and crumple up. Babies balloon them, birth stretches them. Age shuffles them around and loosens them. Exercise strengthens them. Illness weakens them.
Your body is a constant work in progress, a moveable feast. It will be your greatest ally and your worst enemy. But there’s one thing that it will never be - and that’s perfect. And If we wait for it to become that, we are condemning ourselves to a life lived on the sidelines.
I’m living through a ‘chubby’ Summer. So what? One of my friends is living through a Summer of chemo. Another is waiting for a serious operation that could change her life. Another’s body is spending every day in a plastic chair at the Children’s Hospital, willing her baby to get well.
As #mamamiasummer is proving all over Instagram, every body is a beach body, with enough sunscreen.
This #mamamiasummer project has helped so many women feel good about themselves these holidays by simply reminding us all that summer doesn’t belong to any one shape, size or age of woman. Keep these brilliant shots coming so we can keep sharing them and supporting other women to feel good. #mamamiasummer @mamamiaaus
If I spend this summer staying home because I’ve got nothing to wear to the party, or glued to the bench in the shade while my children play on the beach, staying out of the photographs that will chronicle these holidays, I am robbing myself of all the little joys that this body can bring me while I am alive and healthy and able.
Knowing those things is one thing. Living it is another. I’m pushing against my instinct to cover up and cower. I’m pushing against it through every piece of ‘new year, new you’ marketing that’s flying at me, via my news feed, my television and my well-meaning friends. It feels counterintuitive, rebellious even, to be wearing a swimsuit at the beach and not running to hide, not apologising for my existence, just wearing it and getting on with swimming, running, reading, wrestling with the little people.
It feels fabulous.
Exercise and restraint will become priorities for me again, my body will enter a new season, hopefully, many, many more. But while it’s in this one, I’m going to make the most of the weather.